Substantive short articles on Marxian sociology

A Great Little Man: The Shadow of Jair Bolsonaro

How to assess the new Brazilian regime? Early as it is in Bolsonaro’s rule, some broad stroke preliminaries are possible. In what follows I trace the political paralysis of the first five months, the popular social base of Bolsonarismo, its relationship to capital, and the role of evangelical Pentecostalism. I offer a biographical profile of Bolsonaro himself, map the three pivotal factions constituting the new government, and assess the economic outlook of the country. To anticipate the basic conclusions: the Bolsonaro regime is a weak and internally divided far-right regime, with declining popular support; capital backed Bolsonaro as a way out of crisis, but thus far the regime has not delivered, and the markets are losing faith.

By |2019-10-15T16:56:43-04:00Oct 15, 2019|

Marx on Taxation

Tax is not treated comprehensively in any of the major political-economy texts of Marx and Engels, but is instead covered piecemeal, predominantly in their journalism, occasionally in their letters. They supported progressive taxes, both on capital and income, had a strong preference for direct over indirect taxation, and back restrictions on inheritance. The tax landscape of Marx and Engels is clearly different to our own – in 1849, indirect taxes accounted for 40% of the Prussian Royal Finance Ministry total tax take, and direct taxes, only 29%, whereas today in the UK or Germany, indirect taxes are in the minority, with direct taxes generating around two-thirds of the total take. Indirect taxes are expected to account for 28% of the UK total tax take in 2018-19. The poorest UK households currently pay twice as much of their disposable income in indirect taxes, a clear driver of net income inequality.

By |2019-08-28T17:47:01-04:00Aug 28, 2019|

The New Memphis

This Life is a profound tour of our inner life and purpose that deftly weaves in religion and political economy, with an eye always to the future. But it fails to appreciate the profound worth of institutional changes that might reallocate powers and capacities to exploited people here and now for its chief goal, spiritual freedom.

By |2019-08-07T12:31:02-04:00Aug 7, 2019|

The Ruling Class Does Rule

Social scientists should assuredly keep the structural constraints of capitalism in mind when developing state theory in the 21st century. However, we should not lose site of the fact that individuals also make history, and that a single-minded focus on the structural constraints of capitalism may only lead to a functionalist interpretation of the state, alongside a cynical approach to politics.

By |2019-07-17T11:52:11-04:00Jul 17, 2019|

It’s Not Just Profitability: A Response to Michael Roberts

Marxism has a future only if its practitioners confront unexpected developments with a determination to find their roots using the methodology and concepts of Marxism, not by trying to show that the evidence is wrong out of a misplaced fear that any unexpected development threatens to undermine Marxism.

By |2019-06-21T11:19:09-04:00Jun 21, 2019|

Controlling the Poor

As prison and jail admissions have decreased around 25% from their late-2000s peak, private prison companies have begun to invest heavily in “alternatives to incarceration”, such as probation facilities and GPS monitoring (a form of control which has increased 70% in the past twenty years and has become a $6 billion industry). These “alternatives” are presented as more humane, and cheaper, ways of managing criminalized populations. However, as the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign notes, these “alternatives” are linked “to a much broader process of expanding, informationalizing, and generalizing the prison … When the prison is everywhere, it is also invisible as the new form of social reality.”

By |2019-06-04T09:46:54-04:00Jun 4, 2019|

The class struggle over democracy

To understand democracy — to defend it and to deepen it — we should examine its long history rather than obsess about recent headwinds. In a recent article published in the American Journal of Sociology, I attempt to do just that. My research suggests that democratic progress over the last 150 years is the fruit of the changing character of class struggle over the state. Democracy has its origins in the capacity of the poor to disrupt the routines of the rich.

By |2019-05-31T09:54:44-04:00May 28, 2019|